Are You Interrupting?

Are You Interrupting?

People interrupt way too frequently. Men and women both do it; it may be in different ways, at different times, and for different reasons, but we all interrupt. Interrupting might just be the biggest barrier to communication because when an interruption happens, communication stops; communication requires not only speaking, but listening, too.

When we interrupt, we're not listening. We've started talking (either out loud or inside our head). And when we interrupt, it triggers a fight or flight mechanism in our partner, which has them interrupt us back (the start of a fight) or has them shut down (flight).

You might think you're listening, but look for yourself and see if any of this fits. Are you:

* waiting for your turn to talk?
* gearing up to make your point?
* disputing what they're saying in your head?
* getting ready to tell them why they're wrong/why you're right?
* playing commentary in your head about what they're talking about?
* remembering all the other times you've already heard what they are saying?
* realizing you already know what they're going to say?
* remembering something related that you want to tell them about?
* thinking you're missing a vital piece of the story that you have to ask about, right now?
* knowing what they should do?
* knowing how to solve their problem?
* recognizing they're getting part of the story wrong so you have to correct them?
* waiting for the pause that signals it's your turn (to pounce...)?

A lot of things might be happening, but listening is not among them. And because nobody's listening (since we are all doing it), nobody feels heard. This can cause our voices to raise, and our tempers to flare, or we might stop talking entirely. Communication and connection are no longer happening.

What does interrupting cost us?

Interrupting makes us feel disconnected, unrealted, frustrated, annoyed, and it creates problems that were not there to begin with. It makes us unwilling to trust someone with our thoughts and feelings, so we're less likely to share them with each other. We end up causing the opposite of we intend, and we don't even know it.

I like to imagine conversations that are interrupted as a tennis match, with both sides trying to hit the ball before it gets to them!Are you interrupting?Imagine instead what could happen if you stopped interrupting people. What if you thought of all your conversations as a tennis ball being volleyed back and forth. When you wait for the ball to get to you before you try to hit it is easier, and more effective. When you giving your partners a chance to say everything they have to say, without interruption, things will turn around in your relationships, and your ability to connect through communication will increase.

You won't feel heard unless they feel heard. Go ahead, give it a try...

Are You Interrupting?

Caren Field (MA, LLPC) is a professional individual and couples counselor with a Master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy She has been studying human nature since 1998 and has been in private practice since 2007. Her latest project, a workshop called Set Yourself Free™ is designed to teach people how to heal themselves from emotional injures, large and small, and how to set themselves free!

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Most Helpful Guy

  • It's about time somebody made this take. I remember first time I learned not to interrupt and it was a harsh lesson. It ended in an argument but with hindsight, I seem so grateful to that person for the insight they gave me. It is not an easy thing to just sit there and listen to things you know (or rather think are wrong) when you are afraid that you will forget what it is that you are disagreeing with and the person you are talking to will present some other argument that you also believe is completely off the mark. But there is no point interrupting. Even if the only thing you want to do is argue, the only thing you can do is address the general flow of their points. Some things just have to be left alone. Most people have a hard time not interrupting and don't even realise. As for me, I just don't want to get swayed by that person's beliefs... not if it means making the kind of changes in my life that I don't want to make. I'd that's what is required, then that is the only time I will interrupt- because I am afraid of the corruption that will take place.


Most Helpful Girl

  • Nah. I think this is overly simplistic, and perhaps slanted toward the typical introvert's point of view.

    I am WAY at the other end of the spectrum. I pretty much score 100% on every inventory of extroversion known to man, and I can carry on a perfectly normal conversation for 30 minutes with an inanimate object (the volleyball in the movie Cast Away comes to mind).
    When I have conversations, my IDEAL is actually to have both sides of the conversation at the same time -- in the same way that birds can breathe in and breathe out at the same time. I have some friends who are totalyl capable of this, and, conversation with them is nothing short of exhilarating. <3

    On the other hand, I can understand what you are saying, from the other end of the spectrum.

    So, it's about BALANCE.

    If I am having a conversation with someone who is more introverted, and is used to having what I like to call a "soap opera conversation" (which fits the description you've given here -- one character says a whole line, then momentary silence, then another character says a whole line, then etc.) ...
    ... then, sure, I'll wait for them to finish speaking,
    at the same time, I would at least like some mmhmm's and yeah's and ok's and iknowright?'s from them.

    You see what I mean?
    I'd actually PREFER interruptions, tbh. If you listen to a typical extrovert conversation, we don't EVER finish our sentences, because we don't have to -- nor do we want to.
    But, if I'm talking to someone who I know would be uncomfortable with that sort of deal, then, in lieu of some real interruptions, I'd be fine with a handful of interjections like mmhmm and yeah and srsly, just to tell me that they haven't totally zoned out. LOL

    But, yeah.
    At one end of the spectrum, interruptions are bad.
    At the other end, they're expected, and even beneficial (to make the conversation more efficient -- if everyone is on the same page, no need to say the rest of the sentence).

    I think you are just used to addressing people in the former category, because people in the latter category are less likely to come seeking professional help when it comes to communication problems.

    • ' slanted towards the introvert point of view'

      You're wrong there - extroverts are much more comfortable with silence than introverts, even if they don't realise.

      It you're really talking both sides of a conversation, a LOT of people in your life will be being resentful and bearing grudges towards you, even now as we speak.

      Interjections are fine as long as you do not confuse them for interruptions. In general, it's ok to interject if your purpose is to agree rather than disagree. But not every introvert knows or understands this rule. For me, this point had to be drilled in.

      Interruptions are not necessarily good, e. g. for group conversations when there is one person who is interrupted and then confused why she or he is reprimanded for interrupting if that person does not understand the rule of the pregnant pause.

      Try holding silence and eye contact as long as possible. Play 'chicken' with the silence and see who breaks first. Just have an open mind about this

    • Show All
    • @the_rake "extroverts are much more comfortable with silence than introverts, even if they don't realise"

      I have to disagree, it gets unbearable not to talk, so they just do it. But they can't stand it. They just have to be making noises, that's all that matters. As for introverts, we may think "well, this is odd, but I really have nothing to say". It's different things that bothers us. Extroverts don't like the silence and don't mind talking.
      Introverts like the silence and hate that they are expected to talk (so they waste the precious silence thinking about what to say, and then say nothing at all but "yeah","mmhhm","ok")

    • But when extroverts are forced to be quiet (meeting, presentation, classes, formal event, etc) they get extremely bored. And from what I see in classes, I haven't found a teacher capable of shutting an extrovert for more than 5 minutes. It's also a matter of respect, but those fuckers just can't be quiet...

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What Guys Said 1

  • Ok, now I will know that it is bad to interrupt. This is the first I hear of this but now I am enlightened for the rest of my life. Thank you for teaching me.

    • This might seem like a captain obvious take, but there are plenty of people who constantly interrupt other people without giving much thought. What's common sense to some is completely foreign to others. This take was still necessary, even if you personally didn't get anything out of it.

What Girls Said 6

  • I agree with you. This is why I get so angered when I am interrupted. A couple of times i can tolerate but constantly it looks like the person has a lack of respect towards what I have to say.
    It's plain rude and improper etiquette.

  • I know, I'm a chronic interrupter! It can't be cured 😥

    I honestly do try not to interrupt people & I'll wait my turn to speak but I guess that's on the no no list too

  • Never have I ever felt so patronized by a therapist.

  • This is so true.

  • people just dont respect people's rights anymore

  • Wow amazing take. Really


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